Austrians fearful of ‘machine’ Jon Walters

Austria have the talent to overcome Ireland and their “machine” Jon Walters on Saturday, according to Arnautovic.

While their star man David Alaba has struggled to shine in this World Cup campaign, Stoke City’s Arnautovic has come to the fore by scoring both goals in the 2-2 draw against Wales last month.

Having come so close to claiming the full points and plaudits in Vienna last month against the Dragons, the local hero has his sights set on unleashing that frustration on Ireland.

Standing in his way are a group of familiar players, two in particular he shares a dressing-room and pitch with back at his club.

“Jon Walters is not a human being, he is a machine,” Arnautovic deadpanned yesterday.

“And, in my view, Glenn Whelan is a compact player who knows as a midfielder when to receive the ball and spread it wide.

“At Stoke, we didn’t talk much about this international fixture coming up. I know almost all of Ireland’s players from the English leagues and many of them we’ll have to watch closely.

“In the draw they got against Serbia, I felt Ireland played very defensively. We can expect they’ll do the same in Vienna, so the responsibility to attack will be on us.”

Another player central to their attacking prowess is Martin Harnik, the experienced Hannover winger back in the squad after missing their loss in Serbia. 

He said team is determined to give their campaign lift-off following a stuttering start.

“We know that the pressure is on us to win but victory would put us level with Ireland on seven points,” said Harnik.

“At home, in front of our capacity crowd, we will also believe any team can be beaten.

“We have good memories from playing Ireland in the last World Cup qualifiers, so we’ve every reason to be confident.”

For all the upbeat soundings from the Austrian camp, however, their preparations have been anything but fluid.

A deluge of showers in the capital on Monday convinced under-pressure coach Marcel Koller to abandon their traditional training ground beside the national stadium and seek out an alternative.

That entailed switching to the main pitch but his wishes were declined by his employers, worried about the surface cutting up ahead of the big match on Saturday. 

It left the embarrassed Koller to source another venue on the opposite side of the city, apparently much to the annoyance of his players.

“I was criticised when I started the job in 2011, we had some success and now I am criticised again,” said the 55-year-old Koller.

“My aim is to be a success and I will give my all to do that. Can I promise that we will beat Ireland? No, but I can say that we will try very hard. You always have mistakes, you have ups and downs.

“I am responsible for the team, I will take the criticism. But I still believe in the job I am doing.”


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